Walking around with your Pentax Q is old, walking around with your 35mm fixed-focal-length point-and-shoot is the new new. Unless the Pentax Q only appears in season 2.
I read this and yeah, that much already made sense. Let me quote this essay on convergence of personal electronics:
Let’s call this the divergence: when experiences and devices that operate independently of a smartphone become more interesting than the phones themselves. And when these devices do connect to a smartphone, it’s only a sidebar.
I have a number of theories about the divergence, but the one I keep coming back to the notion that smartphones (and computers, in a sort of general sense) have gone from being exciting signifiers of the future to well-understood parts of daily life that we simply take for granted. The magic of watching things like music and photos converge into a smartphone screen was partially based on novelty — a new, better way of creating and consuming media. Once the new becomes the traditional, it’s only natural for people to look for something else once again.
Add in the fact that the enormous millennial generation is now part of the workforce and has discretionary income to spend, and the market for divergent products and services begins to take shape: if smartphone convergence was all about virtualizing everything into smartphone apps, divergence is all about physical experiences that command attention away from the phone.
“It’s an add-on, not a replacement,” says Racked style editor Nicola Fumo. “You have a phone with Spotify for the subway but at home you create an ‘experience’ with vinyl records. You have a phone camera for in-the-moment stuff, and a film camera for thoughtful photos (which will probably wind up on Instagram or Tumblr). The notes app on your phone for quick stuff, and a Moleskine for journaling.”
This is a complete flip from the 1980s tech culture I grew up in, where even the faintest whiff of technology meant something was improved; the word DIGITAL was stamped on boomboxes and answering machines like a cult talisman. Convergence was about prioritizing convenience above all, a good-enough camera and music player and movie theater permanently in your pocket. Divergence is about prioritizing quality of experience to create meaning.
“I think it’s rooted in millennials preferring experiences over stuff,” says Fumo. “Traveling to Thailand is cooler than having a fancy purse.” But the divergence means that you can buy tangible stuff that creates experiences. That film camera isn’t just a fussy way to take photos, it’s a way of saying that this moment is valuable. Is that true? It is if you want it to be!
I don’t agree with all this–I think convergence isn’t merely a about convenience, but enabling new experiences. There are things you can now do only because of convergence–taking selfies all the time and over-sharing it on social networks, for example. But the better take is that convergence also removes certain use modes that you get by splitting things out, may it be a technical limitation (eg., optics on photography) or as a feature (eg, using the turntable). Still, the main point is what we have already seen an example of this, in Tamayura, run its course since 2010 (wow), about how different physical modes of interaction and all the glorious details defining a particular set of experiences that is not replaced by its functional equal. The full article drops various notes on interesting nods if you are into the Tamayura idea, and it’s food for thought.
And I think a lot of this also has to do with the relationship between us and consumerism/commerce. Free-styling otaku whales might be poster children of the postmodern consumerist pigs, but I feel there’s a distinction between someone who is buying in versus someone whose needs are fulfilled by their purchase. After all, we all purchase things to fulfill our needs, from food to fun times. Where do we go from being a reasonable actor in an Econ 101 hypo to dopes making it rain in a rap video? It’s one area I feel that needs the most cultural criticism across the board. Maybe a few examples:
- People buying a new iPhone as a status versus people buying cheap Android phones because it fits their needs
- People gasha-ing for fun and for social obligation versus people who just want a card
There are more I’m sure, but you get the idea.
PS. What happens when the Tamayuras grow up and have disposable spending? I guess they’d all get some Sony A-6000s.